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Bladder Cancer
















What is bladder cancer?

The body is made up of billions of tiny cells, which are constantly growing, dying and reforming. If the cells become abnormal for any reason, this turnover cycle can lose control. The abnormal cells start dividing and growing faster than normal, forming a growth of abnormal cells (cancer). Cancers cause problems because they replace normal cells with abnormal non-functioning cells, destroying nearby areas as they grow. Female anatomy - bladder cancer


A benign bladder growth is one that forms a lump, but is not dangerous. A pre-malignant bladder growth is one that has the potential to turn into a cancer, but has not done so yet. A malignant growth is a bladder cancer that has the potential to spread elsewhere.



What problems can bladder cancers cause?

Often, early bladder cancers cause no symptoms whatsoever. As they grow, however, they may cause blood to appear in the urine and can occasionally cause pain. They may also cause recurrent urine tract infections (UTIs).

Male anatomy - bladder cancer


An invasive bladder cancer is one that has the ability to grow through the bladder wall and spread to other parts of the body. This can be very dangerous, and even life-threatening.




What tests may be done?

If your specialist suspects presence of a bladder tumour, they may arrange for blood tests, urine tests, cystoscopy, x-rays or scans. These tests will be able to guide the specialist towards further treatment plans.


How may bladder cancers be treated?

This very much depends on the type of cancer. In the first instance, the specialist will probably arrange for a TURBT (Trans Urethral Resection of Bladder Tumour); this is often performed under a general anaesthetic. The specialist passes an operating telescope up the urethra (wee tube), to look inside the bladder. Any tumours can now be resected and biopsies taken. A catheter is usually placed in the bladder to help you pass water after the surgery, wash out any clots, and occasionally to allow a dose of chemotherapy to be instilled into the bladder - this may help reduce recurrences. You should be able to go home after a day or two.

If the biopsies show that the tumour was non-invasive, then no further treatment may be needed. You will usually have repeat cystoscopies at regular intervals to check for any signs of recurrences.

Other forms of bladder cancer may need chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Your specialist may occasionally recommend further surgery to remove a more extensive cancer.


What risks are associated with TURBT surgery?

  • Bleeding - a small amount of bleeding is common, and usually settles in time. If the bleeding is heavy, then a blood transfusion or further surgery may occasionally be needed.

  • Infection - pain when passing water can indicate a urine tract infection (UTI), which may require antibiotics

  • Blood clots - this is a rare complication, but can be serious if it happens. Blood clots in the calf (Deep Vein Thrombosis) can cause leg swelling and pain. If the clots move to the lungs, then they can cause chest pain and even death.

  • Hole in the bladder - occasionally, resecting a tumour from the bladder wall can leave a hole. This often seals on its own in a few days, but can sometimes need further surgery

  • Urethral narrowing - scar tissue can occasionally form in the urethra (wee tube), which may require further surgery



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Any procedure involving skin incision can also result in unfavourable scarring, wound infection, or bleeding. This list of risks is not exhaustive, and you should discuss possible complications with your specialist. Whilst these risks will seem very worrysome, and indeed can be serious, it should also be borne in mind that many people have no postoperative problems whatsoever.

The information provided is for guidance only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding if this is the right procedure for you. Please also read our disclaimer






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